Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year’s Eve Options Left

The weather has dumped snow on parts of the country, leaving many to change their plans for New Year’s celebrations.  Whether you have been forced to stick close to home or you are stuck in a city you didn’t expect to be in, here are some celebrations that sound like they will make you forget Mother Nature…

New York City
The snow isn’t going to stop the ball from dropping in Times Square, in fact, it looks like it may be even warming up a bit down there when the Carnival Cruise sponsored confetti goes flying.

A few rooms are left at a place I really enjoyed a few months ago, Hotel Elysée. Their package includes a deluxe room, a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot (a Spirits Traveler favorite) and a box of Leonidas Chocolates. It’s only a 15 minute walk to Times Square, or you can enjoy the quiet of the Parisian inspired hotel. In the morning, don’t skip out before enjoying their complimentary breakfast spread.  Full package information is available here, or call (212) 753-1066.
You can also stay at a suite at the The Manhattan Club, where their package will get you two night’s accommodations across the street from Carnegie Hall and a dining certificate good at any of six restaurants. Check out their website for availability and offers.
Las Vegas
If you are in Vegas, chances are snow is the very last thing on your mind. Those lucky enough to get into the grand opening party at sin-city’s newest hotel, The Cosmopolitan, will be treated to a concert that includes Coldplay and Jay-Z. If you didn’t get your invite, there’s still plenty to do in Vegas.

Tao at The Venetian has Kim Kardashian to help ring in the New Year. Tickets are $200 per person include appetizers, an open bar and a champagne toast.  The same deal is available at LAVO at the Palazzo; with Holly Madison leading the crowd for $150 pp. You can buy tickets for the clubs directly here, or go to The Venetian or Palazzo websites for information on weekend hotel packages. Additional parties are available in the other lounges and restaurants at both hotels. Fireworks will take place on the Vegas strip on New Year’s Eve.

Southern California
I spent a week at Harrah’s Atlantic City during the Food Network’s Food & Wine Festival this past summer and had a blast checking out the clubs and restaurants. I hope to check out more properties from this chain and one that has caught my eye is Harrah’s Rincon in northern San Diego. There isn’t a much better place to get great weather and they’ve got quite a New Year’s weekend planned with a special “Laughs In The New Year” theme, complete with comedians, dancing, prizes and a Surf and Turf dinner. Stick around until Sunday and you can see six-time Emmy winning comedian Lily Tomlin perform. Visit the hotel’s website for availability, tickets and packages.

The JW Marriott Chicago is offering a romantic New Year’s package that almost makes me want to take the two hour drive there. Guests are welcomed with cheese and chocolate truffles, before a cleansing and purifying spa treatment for two that includes massages. Then, it’s dinner at The Florentine, celebrity Chef Todd Stein has put together a four-course menu before the midnight Prosecco toast and party favors. Then, linger in the morning with a late 3:00 pm check-out.

Wherever you are staying, how about a seven course farm to table tasting menu from Chef Scott Walton? Markethouse Restaurant is offering this interesting menu for only $65 a person on New Year’s Eve. Visit the website for details and call 312-224-2200 for availability.  For a more formal dinner, try Michelin star-rated Sepia, where Executive Chef Andrew Zimmerman has put together a dinner (available with or without wine pairings) that includes a Smoked Sturgeon in buttermilk, watercress and apple starter. Call (312) 441-1920 if you are interested in attending.

St. Maarten
As if basking in the Caribbean sun by day isn’t enough to entice you to St. Maarten, this island has a blockbuster New Year’s in store. In keeping with its desire to make their cruise port one of the largest and most welcoming, the harbor will be the spot of an elaborate firework display in honor of New Year’s Eve, which can be watched from the Great Bay Beach Boardwalk.  For more information on St. Maarten, visit the tourist bureau’s website.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Last Minute Holiday Travel

You’ve got a few days off and suddenly the idea of letting someone else do the cooking and decorating while you lay back and relax with a few drinks sounds very appealing. It may not be too late to do that.

This is the year of bargain airfares and   there are still some seats left in the plane. Whether you are going to shop for a flight or just get in your car, check out what two of my top destinations have to offer for spirited holiday celebrations…

Napa Valley
Yountville is a foodie’s best stop in Napa with more Michelin star restaurants (i.e. French Laundry, étoile, Bouchon), than you can fill your palette with. If you want to forget the snow and remember the wine and spirits, they’ve got some great offerings (contact the Yountville Chamber for details unless otherwise indicated):

Skate under the stars at the Vintage Winter Pavilion, where you can also enjoy a Hot Toddy & Cocktail menu and weekend wine tastings through January 2nd;

Enjoy WinterScape Hotel Packages at Villagio Inn & Spa and Bardessono (one of the Spirits Traveler’s favorite hotels, pictured above) include goodies like skating passes and dinner discounts;

Go biking through the vineyards with Napa Valley Bike Tours. They will take you to four vineyards for tastings and also provide a picnic lunch.

I can’t imagine a better place to be around the holidays then the ever so regal Palmer House Hilton. Enjoy Afternoon Tea, Christmas Eve Dinner or Christmas Day Brunch at the Lockwood Restaurant. Even if you decide to spend the holidays at home, this hotel around the corner from the Art Institute and Michigan Avenue shopping will definitely keep you in the festive spirit. Through the month of December, you can enjoy their Historical Package, which includes accommodations, a tour of the property with resident historian Ken Price and a memento to go home with.

Another place in Chicago is guaranteeing you’ll stay in the holiday spirit. The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago not only offers some gourmet holiday brunches at their Sixteen restaurant, but they have an exclusive “Holiday Desk” for guests to help you with anything you need to get through the season. While you are in Chicago, you also might want to try the Sunday Brunch at Kit Kat Lounge, which will be filled with live holiday music and movies projected on the screens on December 26th. Along with the Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas, try the “Frosty’s Going Down” – Effen Vodka, Marshmallow Fluff and a drop of vanilla, served in a graham cracker rimmed glass with a snowman peep!!

Coming Soon... Spirited New Year's destinations

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Collection of Cognac Cocktails

As I confessed when I first arrived in Cognac, it was not one of my favorite spirits when I tried to drink it neat. All that changed, though, when I started tasting some "Cognac Cocktails." I was amazed at how well cognac mixed, giving a unique flavor to even the old standards (try substitute cognac for vodka or gin the next time you're mixing tonic; or as the base of a Mojito). Here are a few of the recipes I came home with:

Pink Love
Pour 20 ml (approx. 3/4 oz) of VSOP Cognac in a tall glass;
Add 10 ml of Raspberry Liqueur
Pour 90 ml of Champagne
Top with a Raspberry.

Place ice cubes in a short glass;
Add 30 ml of VSOP Cognac;
Pour in 20 ml of Limonade;
Top with a sprig of Mint.

Lancer Franc
Place ice cubes in a shaker;
Pour in 20 ml of VS or VSOP Cognac
Add 10 ml Strawberry Liqueur
and 90 ml Orange Juice;
Put a lid on the shaker and shake well;
Strain the liquid into a tall glass;
Top with a Strawberry.

Cognac Summit
Place lime zest and ginger slices in a glass;
Pour in 20 ml of VSOP Cognac;
Lightly press the lime and ginger with a pestle;
Half fill the glass with ice cubes;
Stir well
Pour in an additional 20 ml. of VSOP Cognac;
Add 60 ml of lemonade and a cucumber peel;
Stir and serve.

As for my favorite cocktail with cognac, it was actually made just for me, but I'm happy to share. An allergy to citrus kept me from enjoying the Cognac Summit, so a creative bartender at Chateau de L’Yeuse put this together for me….

Lightly press ginger in a glass;
Add 1 oz VSOP Cognac;
Half fill the glass with ice cubes;
Fill the glass with pineapple juice;
Stir and enjoy!
Let's just call it a "Happy Marcia!"

For more great cognac cocktail recipes, visit the official cognac website.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Barefoot Travels

There's a group of people (in addition to us wine travel writers) who travel for wine.  And they welcome you to follow them around. They are called "Barefooters" and they represent a different kind of wine company. With Barefoot Wines, you don't go to a vineyard to taste wine, you travel to an event.

I met with Austin Duke (also known as "Rebel Toe" to his co-workers) at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships.  He was there giving out samples of wine.  We talked between pouring about the company he works for, where the motto is "Get Barefoot and have a great time!"  That's what his job is as a Barefooter. He brings the winery selection to events for sampling. From state food and wine festivals to the Sundance Film Festival, Barefooters travel around the country bringing good cheer to events people can travel to and have a good time. But that's not all Barefoot Wines does.

Barefoot Wines was purchased by E&J Gallo in 2005, but it's purpose has not changed even thought it is produced in Modesto, California, along with the company's Redwood Creek products. Barefoot was started in the 1960s and was officially launched in 1986 by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey. The two of them wanted to produce an affordable wine, but they also wanted to make a difference in the world. They have done so by traveling around the country to not only festivals, but charity events, where their "sampling" has helped raise over three million dollars. They also teamed up with the non-profit Surfrider Foundation and created the "Barefoot Beach Rescue Project."  Each Barefooter that works for them must volunteer for at least two beach cleanups a year.

Austin Duke was sampling white wines at the Indy Championships. Barefoot's Pinot Grigio, which is highly fruity with peach and apple flavors, sells for around $10 and has been written up in the Wall Street Journal as one of its favorites.  On the summer day of this event, it was the first one he ran out of, followed by the slightly sweeter Moscato (which can be found for half the price of the Pinot). The Chardonnay, which I was told was their best seller, didn't last much longer either, though many said they would prefer sipping that with dinner than on a warm day at the matches. At about $12 a bottle, it's pretty reasonable for both.

Check out all 15 of the Barefoot Wines, including their new Riesling, at their website. Also be sure to read about the volunteer opportunities.  And, of course, the events you can travel to where you can sample the wines!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wine is just the beginning at Jack Binion's Steakhouse

Great wine and great food go hand in hand, so what better way to top a trip to a wine region than with an extraordinary restaurant? 

Jack Binion's Steakhouse is located at the Horseshoe Casino Hotel in Elizabeth, Indiana, just a short drive from Corydon and the wineries of HarrisonCounty, but the wine selection here goes way beyond the area. From the "Captain's List," which includes Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon to a Beaujolais from Louis Jadot Villages in France, you can find a choice for everyone from all over the world.  We chose to just have a bit of the Folonari Pinot Grigio as we needed to save our palates for a long tour of wine tasting the following day.

The wine list is the place to start at Jack Binion's, but the food will keep you going in true style.  There is a large offering of seafood, as well as pork chops, rack of lamb, chicken, prime rib and, of course, steak (Strip, Filet Mignon, Porthouse, Kobe Beef) made and served exactly as ordered.  Grilled portobello, carmelized onions, crumbled gogonzola and even jumbo lump crab meat are available as accompaniments.

I was unable to sample the Coconut Battered Shrimp (I have a seafood allergy), but my tablemate enjoyed it immensely, remarking on the light and flavorful batter.  We both enjoyed the Beefsteak Tomato & Mozzarella Salad (perfectly ripe, large tomatoes with lightly salted fresh mozzarella).  The Spinach Salad is made tableside with fresh raspberries, crumbled gorgonzola, red onions and a warm bacon vinaigrette.  The mixing of flavors was both perfect and unique.  I was in awe of the French Onion soup (I've never gotten it that perfect at home) in which I tasted a hint of cheddar.  The restaurant also offers a Lobster Bisque.

For a main course, I had the Beef Wellington.  It was cooked perfectly for me, someone who likes their meats a bit well and usually ends up with crispy. Not this time. It was tender and surrounded by a mushroom pate instead of a liver one inside the flaky crust.  It was served with a gently roasted garlic bulb.  My friend had the lobster tail which she said was tender and sweet.  An assortment of side selections are available, inlcuding Roasted Cabernet Mushrooms and Beer Battered Onion Rings.  We chose the Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise, which was tasty and more than enough for two.

There was no doubt we could have walked out of Jack Binion's Steakhouse full and content, but the dessert menu was a bit too good to pass up.  We agonized over the choices for quite awhile.  Tableside Cherries Jubilee and Bananas Foster were prepared on adjoining tables so we were able to hear the compliments on those and ready to try something else.  Though the Georgia Peach Cobbler a'la mode, Taste of Crème Brulee (one each of Chocolate, Grand Marnier and Espresso) and Lemon Chiffon Ravioli sounded delicious, I couldn't resist the Godiva Chocolate Souffle.  It was not a mistake as it was an indulgent dark chocolate that wasn't too sweet or rich.

As if great food and wine weren't enough, Jack Binion's Steakhouse offers a classic ambiance, with booths and soft music for a romantic dinner, celebration or business meeting. While we were eating, rocker Alice Cooper (who was performing at the casino) came in for dinner, as he had on his previous nights there.

Whether you are heading to Southern Indiana Wine Country, a weekend sightseeing in Corydon, gambling at the Horseshoe Casino, visiting Louisville (it's less than a half hour from the Kentucky border), or just want a first-class meal, I suggest planning an evening at Jack Binion's Steakhouse in Elizabeth, Indiana.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Courvoisier - home of Napoleon's cognac

Courvoisier was my final stop on the Cognac tour and the House of Courvoisier is prepared to make all visitors feel like its most famous former guest -- the Emperor Napoleon.

It was back in the 19th century.  Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois were running a wine and spirit merchant company in Bercy, a suburb of Paris. Napoleon visited the warehouse and took several barrels of their cognac with him on a journey. And the very appreciative English officers named the product the "Cognac of Napoleon."  In 1869, Napoleon III actually presented Courvoisier with a certificate that deemed it their cognac  "Official Supplier to the Imperial Court."

 Just outside the the town of Cognac, Courvoisier has a visitor's center in Jarnac, which not only displays cognac and its historical connection to Napoleon, it encourages guests to "sense" it. Courvoisier stressed the senses throughout our tour, as they do in company's description of their Napoleon cognac:

(Hear) Blending-Matured Grande and Petite Champagne, at their peak;

(See) Colour-
Deep golden-amber;

(Smell) Aroma-
Cigar box, liquorice, hazelnut, old port wine, ginger bread, orange blossom;

(Feel) Body-
full bodied, mellow, round;

Very complex and elegant -- rich -- supple -- tender -- stylish.

It was as complete a definition of cognac as one could give.  Cognac is not one liquid, it is a blend of tastes and aromas that you need to feel. And it followed me through the day.

The distillery tour brought us through the making of Courvoisier, before the tastings of V.S., VSOP, Exclusif, Napoleon, XO Imperial and Intiale Extra filled my senses.

At the Chateau Courvoisier, there was a special tour of the Privi (Paradise) Cellar, where I saw bottles and barrels dating back centuries. The finest of the vintage are stored right there, in a dusty dungeon worth its weight in gold. And then -- with a dinner fitting of an emperor -- we sipped our Napoleon and bid adieu to Cognac.

For more information on Courvoisier, their products and their visiting them in Cognac, go to their official website, or contact them at +33 (0)5 45 35 55 55 by phone.

Cognac Rendez-vous at Remy Martin

The visit to Remy Martin was a bit different from the others as they specialize in making trips there unusual. "Les Rendez-vous Remy Martin" is a collection of offerings to allow visitors to customize their cognac experience with tours, tastings and meals on the distillery grounds and the family estate. I was lucky enough to experience a sampling of what they had to offer (as well as some samples of their finest cognacs) as we went from blending our own cognac to a countryside picnic.

We began the day in the visitors' center with croissants and muffins (carbohydrates before cognac is always a good idea). We were given an introduction and I was surprised to hear the actual numbers -- that Remy Martin, which began in 1724, produces 1.8 million cases per year. We were also told that it is the French government who sets the price of the eau de vie used to make cognac. It is exclusively Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne vineyards that are used in Remy products through 500 distillers.
On a walk through the cellars, the smells from the barrels permeated the room and we could still get a whiff as we headed into the tram (visitors can take a ride through the property) on to the blending room. They always say that you learn by doing and I certainly learned about cognac by trying to make my own. We were given three different eau de vies and had the option of deciding the proportions to use. I favored the stronger, sweeter one, which also happened to be the most expensive. (I didn't take it personally when Master Blender Pierrett Trichet informed me that the company couldn't afford to make it with that much of the good stuff!)
After blending came tasting and then we were off to Chateau Saint Martial, one of the family estates, for a lunch on the grounds. The weather was just perfect and it led to an incredible scene as we sipped cognac and enjoyed the countryside before we headed off to our final distillery -- Courvoisier.
For more information on Remy Martin, their products and their Rendez-vous packages, visit their official website, or contact them at by E-mail at or + 33(0)5 45 35 76 66 by phone.

Cognac, cooperage -- and deer -- with Martell

Martell had quite an interesting afternoon prepared for us, beginning at their distillery. There we learned about the fine grain woods (the only type Martell uses) and how they make finer and more dense cognacs. To illustrate the point, we were taken to the company's cooperage for a fascinating barrel-making lesson.

A cooperage is a place where hand-crafted barrels are made. In the case of Martell's cooperage, it is a place where 45,000 barrels per year are made -- by hand. It was amazing to watch as a worker picked the wood (left outside to be prepared naturally in the rain and sun). The wood was cut into strips and put together a piece at a time before going through the fire, sanding and sealing (for details, see "How to Make a Barrel for Wine"). It was a great experience to see how important every detail in the barrel making is important when making a fine cognac.
After the cooperage, we were back to Martell's Distillery for a tasting of VSOP, XO and Cordon Bleu, before heading to the Founder's House. The home of John Martell, who started the company, is on the grounds of the distillery and worth a visit alone. Originally built in the 1700s, it is full of historic photos and documents.
The evening at Martell's estate, Chateau Chanteloup, was beyond enjoyable. We were treated to an incredible meal, a special tasting of their prized L'Or Cognac and one of my favorite wines (Jacob's Creek Riesling), which is also produced by the Pernod-Ricard group. But the real excitement came after dinner when we were treated to a welcome by some of Chateau Chanteloup's residents -- a group of deer that enjoyed the attention as they ate out of our hands! It was a fitting way to finish a perfect day in Cognac before I got some sleep and got ready for breakfast with Remy Martin.
Martell has guided and private tours available of their Cognac visit their website for details of the tours, as well as product information.

Crossing the river with Hennessy

You never forget your first, and Hennessy was my first real introduction to cognac. Through the vineyards, the river, the tasting, and even the estate, it was quite a first time.

The day started bright and early with a true French breakfast of croissants, fruit, cheese and yogurt at Chateau de L’Yeuse before we packed up for our next location. It was a beautiful summer day with temperatures in the 70s as we headed through the windy roads of Cognac to the Hennessy Vineyards. There we were met by Cyrille Gautier-Auriol, Hennessy's Ambassadeur de la Maison, who showed us the vineyards and the grapes, and explained how the grapes in this region don't make great wine, but they produce outstanding brandy and can be blended for the best cognac.
The vineyards we saw were more "test" vineyards for Hennessy than producers of product. The company-owned plants take up only 200 acres in comparison to the 26,000+ acres in the region. Hennessy uses nearly 2,000 growers in the area to make their product. The growers are all set to certain guidelines, including never to spray pesticides within a month before harvest and to use as little as possible at all times.
We also got an explanation of why cognac tends to cost more than wine. If you take a liter of wine, age it for 20 years, you have two thirds of a liter. An additional 30 years produces just half a liter. After a hundred years, there is only 10% of the original liquid left. It is the blending of those eau-de-vies (from the wine) that makes cognac, and the older liquid in the blend, the more expensive the cognac.
From the Hennessy Vineyards it was off to the Visitors Center where we saw rare bottles of the Hennessy products, as well as an exhibition on its history. It was Richard Hennessy, born in 1724 in Ireland, who worked in the spirits trade and moved to Cognac in the late 1750s, realizing it was the place the best brandies were coming from. In 1771, he began his own company and worked with John Saule (the Saule family still works with the Hennessys as master blenders) to blend cognac. Hennessy continued as a family business, modernized by Maurice Hennessy in the 20th century. In 1971, they joined with the champagne company Moet & Chandon and formed Moet Hennessy.
The trip from the Visitors Center to the distillery was a short one in the Hennessy boat that took us across the Charente River. The smells of oak, flowers and fruits that form cognac were undeniable as we approached the barrels and bottles that had been aging as long as 200 years. We were then whisked off to the Tasting Room, where the youngest Maurice Hennessy joined as we sampled. We were told to sniff and smell all the flavors as the tasting took us from 180° pure alcohol to the eau-de-vies and then a sampling of XO, Paradis (Hennessy's best-selling cognac) and finally Richard Hennessy, the most expensive in the line at $2,500 per bottle.
After the tasting, we were off to an incredible lunch at the Hennessy family estate (Chateau De Bagnolet) and -- after finishing the meal with some more cognac -- it was off to Martell, who Cyrille Gautier-Auriol explained were, "Competitors by day, friends by night."
The Hennessy Visitors Center is open to all guests. Tours are also available at the Hennessy distillery.  For more information on location and hours, call +33(0)545357268. Additional product information is available at the official Hennessy website.

Checking Out Cognac -- the Town and the Drink

We were quite an entourage. Journalists specializing in spirits (and/or travel); members of DISCUS, and representatives from the major cognac manufacturers. As we sat in the lounge of British Airways, I had no idea what I was in for. But everything seemed to go according to the plan.

The flight on Open Skies (an all-business class airline) was great with comfortable seats and excellent food. Though I didn't get much sleep, I finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire. We arrived at Paris' Orly airport 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Orly would have to be described as the total opposite of Charles de Gaulle. It's much smaller and therefore things went a lot quicker. We were out of there within the half hour, holding our bags and ready to board a bus to Montparnasse train station in Paris.

Montparnasse could easily be (if you take away the French signs and the charges to use the toilettes) Penn Station, but it's hard to find a Pan au Chocolat that will match the true French one in Manhattan. You also won't find the TGV, France's high speed train, that was our transportation to the southwest corner of the country. Three hours, a delicious cucumber/cheese sandwich, yogurt and chocolate later, I left my comfortable first class seat on the train and walked out into Angouleme for a scenic 30 minute taxi ride to Cognac.
Our first night was at Chateau de L’Yeuse, which was quaint and beautiful. We had tea on the terrace, overlooking the rolling hills and beautiful greenery of Cognac. It wasn't long before we were downtown exploring on the cobblestone streets. This quaint city lies on the banks of the Charente River. Like a picture postcard, the shops and cafes line the streets. We walked through with a guide (you can get a tram through the Tourist and Information Office instead of a walking tour) up Vieux Cognac and past the beautiful architecture of the Musee des arts du Cognac (Art & History Museum); the Chateau and Saint-Jacques Gate (the town's walls); and the river that leads to the Gabare and Marina. The statue in the middle of town is King Francis I, who was born in Cognac in 1494. Two churches, Saint Leger's and Saint Martin's date back to the 11th and 12th century. It is a beautiful town, fitting to its namesake beverage, which I was about to discover.
After my welcome to Cognac the town, there was only a quick change for dinner at Chateau de L’Yeuse before my introduction to cognac the drink. A representative of BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac), an organization compiled of 5,000 cognac merchants, began to hit us with the cognac facts, many of which took us by surprise.
Cognac, which was first produced in the middle ages, supports 50,000 people. It is only second in vineyard size in France -- where 96% of the world's cognac is made -- to Champagne. And 80% of the cognac made comes from the four major distilleries that we would be visiting -- Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin and Courvoisier. I also learned in my introduction what those letters on the bottle mean: VS-Very Special; VSOP-Very Superior Old Pale; and Napoleon XO-Extra Old.
There were, of course, many more lessons in the days to come, but by the time we went over the four regions (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois, Bon Bois and Bois Ordinaires), I didn't feel like I still needed a copy of "Cognac for Dummies." The basic process was actually simple: starting with wine, turning to eau-de-vie and blending to cognac. There was only one thing that shocked me, and it was a happy surprise.
Confession time… I am not a huge cognac fan (though I found I was alone in this thought as most people seem to drool at the sight of the bottle). At least I wasn't before the trip. It was definitely not my drink of choice. That is why I perked up when I heard the, "70% of cognac is used for mixed drinks, even though most people think you should drink it neat." With visions of cognac cocktails* in my head (and soon in my hands), the adventure suddenly got more exciting. And it was to begin the next day with a visit to Hennessy.